So many friends have welcomed first babies this year, or are about to in the next 6 months. I am so delighted that more parents are being ‘born’, and even more delighted by the babies they hold (or will be holding soon).
I’m leery of heaping on advice of any kind, because if parenthood has taught me anything, it has taught me how little I know, and how little control I have of many details of life, and that we all have to find our own way through the journey. But just the same, for quite a few months now I’ve been wanting to put words to all the things I wish I could say to new moms…the things I wish someone might have said to me when I started down this path. So take them with a grain of salt, but if they speak to you, let them sit in your heart awhile.
When you’re not sure what to do, take a deep breath. Ask for help or advice if you need it, but chances are, if you take a moment to gather your thoughts, your intuition will guide you well. You might not have cared for a baby before (around the clock, I mean), but your attentiveness is what a baby needs most. When you listen and look for clues, baby will give them. The more you learn to understand your baby’s language, the more confidence you will have in your parenting choices, and before long you will find yourself overcoming obstacles that seemed completely impossible at first glance. Starting with surviving pregnancy. Am I right, mamas?
Lots of people will have lots of advice for you. Most people genuinely mean well and want to help, but one of the first lessons of parenting is that there are zillions of opinions on every topic, and only a fraction of those opinions will be actually valuable to you. Your new job as a parent is to sort through all the information that comes flying at you to determine what is helpful and valuable for you. All the rest of it is noise. Even if your friends or family swear by the method or decision, don’t be afraid to funnel those things into a “for later” or “no thanks” category in your mind and move on with making the best choices you can for your baby.
Remember that every parent starts out with no experience as a parent. Some have prior experience caring for babies or have observed lots of other parents, but it is not the same. There is a steep learning curve when the ball is in your court for the first time, but you will probably learn that you are more capable, more creative, and more fit for your new job than you feel. Don’t let anything chip away at your confidence in your ability to be a good parent. Every one of us bumbles through parts of parenting, learning by trial and error, adapting to changes as they come, and seeking understanding about our child’s needs at every new stage. Experienced parents often have great insights into new stages, but even then, they do not know your child the way you do, and their ‘experience’ will likely be very different from yours.
You probably wonder if you will ever sleep again. I actually can’t promise you that you will, but most likely, you will find a groove that will work. There are stages that feel like they will never ever end, but every one of them does eventually. Your baby grows and changes, and so do you. You learn all kinds of things about what they like and don’t like. What they need and don’t need. What works and what doesn’t. I think the few months that follow the birth of your child is an important time to be really kind to yourself. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Let someone else care about anything that falls outside the immediate care of your baby or yourself. Don’t feel obligated to show up for events, or take on responsibilities outside the home until you feel ready for them, which could be after two months, or might not be for two years. Give yourself time, space, and grace to adjust to the new things around you.
Just like it is important to choose your friends wisely, its important to choose your mom-friends wisely as well. Some will support, encourage, and cheer you on with love, and those friends make the journey rich and full with goodness. Some are more interested in judging your choices, making you feel insecure, and comparing your differences as parents. Not at all helpful, and as a new mom, you have no time for that negativity.
When you’re staring into the unknown, the uncharted territory, resist the urge to feel inadequate for the job. Motherhood is a deeply humbling experience, in all the best ways. It’s not really fair to look at other people who are a few steps down the road and compare how they’re managing…I guarantee every one of them has come face-to-face with plenty of things they had no idea how to tackle, nights of sleeplessness and tears (baby’s and their own), and I’d be willing to bet they still constantly second-guess their choices. Most likely, the ones who look the most together still have their own big challenges and plenty of hard days. Breathe in grace, and take in every moment you can, because they do pass. Expect to be challenged, exhausted, overwhelmed, and completely smitten with the little person you welcome into your family. Welcome to the mother’s journey.